The ideal game for any platform is one that, when you play, causes someone to look over your shoulder and say, ‘Hey, can I play that?’ Monster Burner is almost guaranteed to cause that reaction. It’s the type of game with a simple display, colorful graphics, and intuitive touch screen controls. More than that, it’s a game that makes use of your screen’s real estate, giving you the freedom to move within an environment without being cramped on a small screen.
At first glance, Monster Burner looks like a game we’ve all seen a thousand times before. Each level features a story book-like background as tiny monsters march down the screen toward you. To the left of your screen, you’ll see a small icon move upward. Your goal is to defend against the army of marching monsters until the clock reaches zero without losing all of your lives.
It’s getting hot in here.
As the title implies, fire is your best weapon against these little goblins. When you start, you are given the fireball, which burns through your monsters like a hot knife through butter. Simply flicking your finger in any direction across the screen will launch a fireball. If you hold your finger on the screen, your fireball builds, allowing you to hit a wider range of monsters.
The real challenge is resource conservation. You only have a limited amount of mana, which you use to cast spells, like the fireball. Your mana builds slowly, so you need to line up shots and take out groups of monsters with each fireball. Combos also earn you additional points and mana, so you’ll need to learn when to take the best shots.
As the levels progress, you’ll also come upon new types of monsters. Some will be stronger than the standard fare and require more than one hit. Others explode and send lines of fire out to burn other monsters. Sometimes, you’ll even find the princess hiding among the monsters, and hitting her means a loss of your life points. All of these require precision in your attack and quick thinking. If you don’t learn how to bank shots just right or prioritize your enemies, you’re sure to lose in a hurry.
As you play, you’ll earn orbs of fire and coins. Orbs allow you to unlock more sections of the map, which contain more levels. You can use coins in the shop to buy more health or new spells. As the levels become more difficult, it will become vital for you to gain new spells. The only problem with that is the spells are often slightly more expensive than you can afford, which forces you to play more levels, hoping for additional coins. Of course, you can always spend your own cash for in-game coins.
Monster Burner also makes great use of online leaderboards. The game’s genie mascot constantly reminds you who has a higher score than you. In fact, before you play each level, you will have access to that day’s highest scores for that level. Unfortunately, the game uses OpenFeint to house each player’s online profile, rather than iOS’s built-in Game Center.
Monster Burner is a fantastic casual game that looks good enough to be in iPad commercials. The graphics are picturesque, and each world has its own quirks to keep the game fresh and challenging. It’s perfectly suited for an Internet-connected, touch screen device, and the extra real estate of the iPad’s screen is used to show levels and online leaderboards on one display. While the game might be too difficult at times and the new spells might be too expensive, the biggest downside is how often you’ll have to share your game with other people once they get a peak.